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Battling Depression at Suffolk’s Counseling, Health, and Wellness Center

A recent survey conducted by the Suffolk University Counseling center found that 22.7 percent of students demonstrated symptoms suggestive of a major depressive disorder. The survey, published in October 2014, gathered data from 238 students ranging from ages 17 to 73. These statistics may be surprising to students on campus who are unfamiliar with the counseling center, or what it means to be depressed. The word “depression” has a lot of stigmas attached to it, but students should know depression is more than just feeling sad all the time.

Paul Korn, a senior psychiatrist in Suffolk’s counseling center, said when life’s demands are too much for someone to handle, “they try not to feel the feelings that come with life, and so they push away those feelings.” Korn said a person with depression would begin to push away positive feelings as well, “leading to muted or flat relationships.”

There are a variety of different factors that can contribute to depression or mood disorders. Family history plays a large role in an individual’s mental health, but outside stressors are often triggers for depression.

“Life is harder – economically, socially, stress-wise, identity-wise, connection-wise, and nutrition-wise,” said Teresa Belvins, a Suffolk staff psychologist, adding her own opinion as to why the depression rate at Suffolk is rising. “Suffolk doesn’t really have school spirit and a college campus, and consequently, some students may have a hard time connecting with peers,” she said, “Distractions outside of campus, such as stabbings and police alerts might make college life seem scarier.”

The demands of college life coupled with a new environment can prove overwhelming for many students. Korn explained that as a way of dealing with this students can become too focused on the future, causing anxiety, or too focused on the past, causing depression.

The goal of the Office of Counseling Health, Wellness, and Safety (CHWS) is to create a healthy and safe environment for Suffolk University’s students. In addition to providing prescriptions, medical care, peer groups and stress relief resources, CHWS offers one-on-one counseling with licensed psychologists and doctorate students. The Counseling Center specifically works to provide students with timely and comprehensive short term counseling services.

The first step in treating a mood disorder is to identify it. When a student goes to the counseling center for the first time it’s “all about information gathering,” said Blevins, “We ask [you] what’s going on in your life… how would you describe yourself six months ago as opposed to yourself today?”

Each member of the CHWS staff uses a different approach to combat depression and personalize their encounters. Belvins often uses humor to put students at ease and Korn works on mediation to allow students to be true to themselves. Students are allowed to switch counselors to find someone they feel comfortable with in order to get the best care possible.

“A lot more people have been through depression or have gone through counseling, so do not be afraid to speak out and get help,” said Korn.

Any student at Suffolk who is struggling deserves to know that these resources exist.  College can be an incredibly confusing and trying time for many.

“People with depression are just struggling and can be helped,” added Belvins, “You’re not broken if you feel depressed or stressed.”

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